The recent endorsement of Bernie Sanders by comedian Joe Rogan has progressives raging.
Joe Rogan, made famous by the television show Fear Factor, now hosts a successful podcast: ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’. His YouTube channel currently has 7.29 million subscribers, with his Twitter sitting at 5.6 million followers. So an influential comedian endorsing a populist progressive candidate: what’s the catch?
Beyond the numbers, Rogan’s career looks much less impressive. As some Twitter users pointed out his show regularly hosts members of the alt-right like Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, and Steven Crowder, amongst others.
Still more voiced concern not over Rogan’s guests but his own past comments which include every manner of hate. One video depicts his continual use of the n- word while in another he suggests a link between molestation in adolescence and homosexuality. And when he’s not being homophobic, he’s being transphobic. He regularly rails against trans athletes and makes clear that in his opinion trans women are not “actual women” Not that he thinks much more of what he considers “actual” (cis) women.
The backlash began almost immediately. Many people called for Senator Sanders to publicly reject the endorsement and said that it was a mistake to have publicized it.
Still others suggested that Joe Rogan’s influence justified the move by the Sanders campaign.
Rogan’s endorsement will undoubtedly bring new voters to the Sanders campaign but at what cost? Will Rogan’s past comments cost Bernie votes from the LGBT+ community? And what about people of colour? Bernie currently leads among young Black voters. One has to wonder how Rogan’s “Planet of The Apes” comment (video below) will go over amongst the Black community.
Both the Sanders campaign and the Human Rights Campaign released statements, although striking very different notes. In a move which appears to sacrifice the dignity and safety of vulnerable communities in exchange for votes Sanders appeared defiant, referring to Rogan’s controversial past as a difference of “belief”. Alphonso David, the current president of the HRC, was much more critical invoking the widespread violence against the trans community and the real life consequences of Rogan’s behaviour.
Only time will tell how damaging this incident will be to Sanders’ Whitehouse ambitions, but one things for sure: those most at risk are the victims of Rogan’s hate. Any attempt to erase their suffering or to minimise the harassment they face must be confronted. Let us know your thoughts on this controversial topic in the comments below.